The Knickerbocker Blizzard of 1922
From the Season3: Episode 15: A Change in the Weather that just released, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Knickerbocker Blizzard. But I never want the episodes to get too long, so that's where Beyond the Bones comes in handy! So if you've got a moment... here's the rest of the story from A Change in the Weather.
As with our other storms we talked about in the podcast episode, this one started in the south with the warmer Gulf Coast winds and then clashed with freezing temperatures aggressively coming down from the north.
The weather sources say it began as a dry storm, snow just whirling about, but it's when the two battle for control is when the trouble begins.
(Does anyone else conjure up the image of the Heat Miser and Cold Miser brothers from that Christmas stop animation classic? Just me? Nevermind... continue on... )
The result became a winter cyclone. A tornado of snow and it took its time wreaking havoc along the coast as it moved from Georgia all they way up to Pennsylvania.
The southern states weren't used to having much snow in the first place, but this storm would drop at least a foot of snow in a matter of 24 hours and it was just beginning.
By the time it hit Virginia, it dropped 19 inches of snow almost paralyzing the state. Cities like Baltimore, MD and Richmond, VA and even the Outer Banks, NC would document the complete shut down.
But it would seem, the worst hit was Washington, D.C.
It would report over 28 inches of snowfall. And even though the residents had been dealing with winter and snow the full week prior, no one was expecting this much damage from the snow. In fact, they believed the storm was winding down and were ready to get back to their lives.
The railroads eeked to a stop with over 30" of snow blocking their path with snowdrifts climbing to 16 feet high.
People were tired of being cooped up from the week's worth of snow, but as I mentioned, they believed it was slowing down... and technically it was?
So as the story goes, almost 1,000 people chose to brave the elements for a night of entertainment at the local movie house- The Knickerbocker.
The Knickerbocker Theatre opened to great fanfare on October 13, 1917.
It's was commissioned by Harry Crandall who was making a name for himself by opening a chain of movie houses in Washington, D.C. and in Virginia. He had commissioned Reginald Geere, who had himself made a name as the go-to for theatre design.
The Knickerbocker was designed to house 1,700 patrons and be a multi-use facility. It was the largest and most elegant facility of its kind in the city. It could not only show movies on a large screen with a full orchestra in front, (because, we're still in the silent film days), but it could also be used as a lecture hall, a meeting house and had the set up to do stage productions as well.
Catering to a higher end clientele, Crandall also included elegant parlors and lounges for his guests and ballroom to create additional options.
With the days and days of snowfall, the roof of the Knickerbocker was holding a significant amount of weight and unbeknownst to the guests or the staff... it was about to reach its breaking point... literally.
With little to no warning, the roof collapsed onto the balcony and within minutes, brought everything down to the main floor crushing men, women and children on the main floor.
It all happened so quickly. It was just after 9:00 and the streets were dark. Many of the roads were still covered in snow making car travel difficult. Luckily, a woman heard the calamity and phoned the police.
The Washington Post's John Jay Daly would report, "With a roar, mighty as the crack of dawn, the massive roof of the theater broke loose from its steel moorings and crushed down on the heads of those in the balcony. He would say, "it was as sudden as turning off an electric light."
The telephone operator, who took the original call in turn put calls into the fire department and the local hospitals. Because of the loud crash, residents starting flooding the area doing their best to help. The fire engines were struggling to get to the area because of the roads and the ambulances were facing the same difficulty.
There were so many people rushing in to help, that it was actually becoming more of mess.
The Marines were called to the scene to try and make order from the chaos. And it's said that the military maneuvers were led by none other than Army Major George Patton.
The hundreds of people worked through the night to remove debris and large concrete sections of the roof and balcony, but by the next afternoon, little headway had been made.
Sidenote: Even through all the terror and workers, there were some, as there are with every single one of these disaster stories that come forward and remind us of out humanity and good nature.
In this story, several taxi cabs who were used to navigating the dangerous streets came forward to help get victims to hospitals.
Neighbors opened up their homes to serve as temporary lodging for the injured and for the workers to rest, and provided hot beverages and food. And there are stories of a little boy who would risk his life- every single time- to crawl into gaps left by the debris in order to take a drink of water to those whose voices could reach him.
Even the theatre's architect was on hand helping to pull victims out from under the rubble.
From the book The Knickerbocker Storm by Kevin Ambrose; he writes, ""Bodies were being carried out of the theater and they were laid down in rows on the snow-covered sidewalk, adjacent to the theater. The rescuer workers were using anything available to cover the victims, including coats, sheets, and blankets."
It took over twenty hours to unbury theatre-goers whose seats were under the balcony. They perished under double the weight.
President Warren G. Harding, sensing the depth of the tragedy, was moved to issue the following statement:
“I have experienced the same astounding shock and the same inexpressible sorrow which has come to all Washington, and which will be sympathetically felt throughout the land. If I knew aught to say to soften the sorrow of hundreds who are suddenly bereaved, if I could say a word to cheer the maimed suffering, I would gladly do it. The terrible tragedy, staged in the midst of the great storm, has deeply depressed all of us and left us wondering about the revolving fates.”
Reports would say that 93 people lost their lives that night, with others perishing from their injuries in the days following. Over 130 people were injured.
The Washington Post would write, "Joseph Wade Beal, the first violinist at the Knickerbocker, was among those in the theater, only five days after his marriage. He was crushed to death."
Others would tell the story of the honeymoon couple who were vacationing in the area were killed by the falling blocks of concrete.
A post found on Ancestry.com by Kathy Baker would recall the memory of a family member who was lost in the incident:
"Agnes was on a date. Her date was blown into the lobby and he survived. Agnes was covered in plaster and was originally listed as an unknown. She was identified by her brother, Charles Leo Mellon, from her clothing. Very sad occasion for the family and “Leo” would always cry when he thought of her. Leo was my grandfather."
Her date was a man named James. They were running late to get to the movie on time, but it had just started before they arrived. Without removing their coats, Agnes rushed to find them seats. James was only a few steps behind but that was enough to escape the falling roof.
The roof fell from side to side and the entire circumference of the seating area, but the roof over the lobby held. And when the roof fell, it's believed a gust of wind blew James further back to safety. He would never marry.
Following the incident, several queries were made trying to discover the cause as it was and still is considered one of the biggest disasters in Washington, D.C. history. It was initially blamed on faulty construction, but later it was narrowed down to a single support beam that has shifted from it's place of strength.
Many filed lawsuits for damages, as could be expected, but none were successful as no one could agree who was at fault.
The damage, however, was still done to Harry Crandall and Reginald Geare. They would not survive the aftermath of the disaster of the Knickerbocker.
Historian Jerry Wallace would write, "A coroner’s jury found that the theater victims had died because of faulty construction and design. A grand jury then indicted Geare and four others for manslaughter, but the charge was later quashed.
"Geare’s career as an architect collapsed along with Knickerbocker’s roof. The theater owner, Harry Crandall, once worth 6 million dollars and a major figure in the motion picture industry, lost his theaters and his wealth. Geare and Crandall were haunted by the disaster. This led both to their graves by suicide in gas-filled “self-execution chambers,” the former in August 1927, the latter, in February 1937."
Harry Crandall would leave behind a note asking that the reporters not be too harsh on his memory.
For more episodes on natural disasters, hop over to theBag of Bones Topics Page!
Sidenote: Ties into Episode 8 of Season 3 in the Bag of Bones Podcast
As far as back as I could find, the Ghost Dance seemed to originate from the Paiute community from the Nevada regions. They were nomadic hunter/gatherers and fiercely spiritual.
In 1867 a bout of typhoid fever tore through the area killing one tenth of the Walker River Paiutes.. The next spring, 25 Paiutes, the majority being children, died of measles. This type of tragedy caused unending grief for the survivors but in a practical sense, it disrupted their way of life and economy.
They were unable to travel the way the once had and were convinced to settle at a mining town in Virginia City.
In 1869, the healer of the tribe, Wodziwob organized a series of dances. He instructed his people that they would be dances of celebration; that they would be filled with a new vision. He requested they, “ornament themselves with paint as they usually did for festivals and to dance the common round dance.”
He told the people he’d fallen into a trance and had seen the dead happy and walking about. He claimed they spoke of a time they would be returned to live among their loved ones, perhaps in three or four years…
Ranchers began distupting the flow of water by cutting irrigation ditches in the valley, the fish the River Walkers so heavily relied on became scarce. Wodziwob’s prophecy had not come to fruition. He apologized and believed that he was fooled and mocked by the evil witch owl that brought darkness to his people.
But the Ghost Dance spread… and the idea and hope that they would be reunited with their ancestors who had passed before them continued to fuel the religion. With the invasion of white settlers and disease and conflict and malnutrition, the tribes in Nevada and beyond were clinging to hope.
One such man would be responsible for marrying the Ghost Dance to the Christian religion, Taivo.
He followed the practices of Wodziwob and he boiled it down to practices and traditions, some of which are still followed today in the Paiute culture.
Taivo’s son Wovoka was fascinated with the belief of the Christian Messiah and how the two religions seemed to go hand in hand.
When he was around 20 years old, Wovoka would meet up with a prophet called Smohalla. He was preaching that the spirits had warned him not to follow the white invaders’ ways. “Cease to plow and mine the earth; they should take only the resources freely given on the earth’s surface and in the waters.” His followers recalled that this was their way of life before the invasions and in those days, “they had not suffered such fighting, hunger and disease as now beset them.”
Wovoka had witnessed the Native American harassments and illness and how the people were forced onto reservations or face death. They were forced to give up their way of life a told to learn to farm, even though they had no provisions or knowledge to do so.
General Miles sent this telegram from Rapid City to General John Schofield in Washington, D.C., on December 19, 1890:
"The difficult Indian problem cannot be solved permanently at this end of the line. It requires the fulfillment of Congress of the treaty obligations that the Indians were entreated and coerced into signing. They signed away a valuable portion of their reservation, and it is now occupied by white people, for which they have received nothing."
"They understood that ample provision would be made for their support; instead, their supplies have been reduced, and much of the time they have been living on half and two-thirds rations. Their crops, as well as the crops of the white people, for two years have been almost total failures."
"The dissatisfaction is wide spread, especially among the Sioux, while the Cheyennes have been on the verge of starvation, and were forced to commit depredations to sustain life. These facts are beyond question, and the evidence is positive and sustained by thousands of witnesses."
In 1889 there was a solar eclipse and on that day Wovoka was suffering from an illness, but through his fevered state, he had vision. His soul had been taken to heaven and God gave him a mission… that he should go amongst his people and preach a gospel of peace.
He took his mission and not only was he accepted as a prophet of the people, he carried it out as well. He would preach to the Paiute but that wasn’t enough, he would dictate letters and have them sent out to other tribes who wanted to hear his word. In the spring of 1889, Shoshoni and Arapaho healers came from the Colorado area to hear him preach and to learn under his instruction so they could take it back to their tribes. They returned the circle dances done in Wodziwob’s time .
Fast Forward to 1890...
Fast forward to 1890…
The Native American Sioux tribes are in turmoil. Their life has no resemblance of the life they used to have, raising their children, hunting and celebrating their traditions. They were desperate for a sign.
Wovoka’s vision told him that the Christian Messiah, Jesus Christ would return to earth, but in the form of a Native American. He spread the word that if they were faithful, the Messiah would make the white invaders disappear from Indigenous lands, because the lands were going to rumble and swallow them up. The buffalo and other animals would return in abundance. And the ghosts of their ancestors who had already passed, would return to earth and all would live in peace.
The Ghost Dance, in its slow and steady solemn pace done with only the sound of a beating drum would be used to call out to the Messiah and create a magical robe of protection around the people as they waited for the miracle to arrive.
“The spread of news in the Indian country is one of those things not understandable of the white man, and the coming of the Messiah was spread among the Indians with the speed of the telegraph.”
“It appeared one day among the Shoshones and the Arapahoes in Wyoming; with a personal Messiah up in the mountains in some inaccessible place; the next day it was talked of in OK, NE, ND and SD- the Indians of widely distant localities coming simultaneously to the knowledge of the impending emancipation of the red man.”
Huh… almost as if it’s supernatural… spiritual, almost.
Sitting Bull, was the respected healer of the Lakota. He had heard of Wovoka and wanted to know more about him. He had requested to leave the reservation, but McLaughlin continued to deny his requests. He would write,
“I was repeatedly compelled to refuse Sitting Bull permission to visit the Cheyenne River reservation. Some reports had come to us of the introduction of the ‘Ghost Dancing’ religion in the southern reservations, and I declined to allow Sitting Bull to leave his home.”
So he sent his nephew and one other to speak with Kicking Bear, one who had trained under Wovoka and invite him to come to Standing Rock.
Although Wovoka preached nonviolence, whites feared that the movement would spark a great Indian rebellion.
J.McLaughlin wrote in his book, My friend the Indian (I can’t even type that without rolling my eyes). “Sitting Bull had heard of Kicking Bear. That individual had been absent from (his) home for about a year, and had begun preaching the new religion on his return. Finding that he could not get away himself, Sitting Bull sent six of his young men to Cherry Creek, on the Cheyenne River reservation with an invitation to Kicking Bear to make Sitting bull a visit.”
“It was in early fall of 1890 that Kicking Bear, a half-crazed fanatic of the Minniconjou band came up from the Cheyenne River reservation and imparted to Sitting Bull the secrets of the new religion which would bring the Indian into the inheritance of the earth. … It took a tremendous hold upon those who became at all infected with the new belief. It looked like an inspired outbreak of religious zeal.”
According to One Bull (Sitting Bull’s nephew), his interpretation of Kicking Bull’s preaching, quote “My brothers, I bring to you the promise of a day in which there will be no white man to lay his hand on the bridle of the Indian’s horse; when the red man of the prairie will rule the world and not be turned from the hunting-grounds by any man. I bring you word from your fathers, the ghosts, that they are now marching to join you, led by the Messiah who came once to live on the earth with the whitem men, but was cast out and killed by them. I have seen the wonders of the spirit-land and have talked with the ghosts. I traveled far and am sent back with a message to tell you to make ready for the coming of the Messiah and return of the ghosts in the spring.
“In my tepee on the Cheyenne reservation I arose after the corn-planting, 16 moons ago and prepared for my journey. I had seen many things and had been told by a voice to go forth and meet the ghosts, for they were to return and inhabit the earth. I traveled far on the cars of the white men, until I came to the place where the railroad stopped. There I met two men, Indians, whom I had never seen before, but who greeted me as a brother and gave me meat and bread.
“On the evening of the 4th day, when we were weak and faint from our journey, we looked for a camping place, and were met by a man dressed like an Indian but whose hair was long and glistening like the yellow money of the white man. His face was very beautiful to see, and when he spoke, my heart was glad and I forgot my hunger and the toil I had gone through. He said, “How my children. You have done well to make this long journey and come to me. Leave your horses and follow me.’ And our hearts sang in our brests and we were glad. He led the way up a great ladder of small clouds and we followed him up through an opening in the sky.
“Then, from an opening in the sky we were shone all the countries of the earth… all were there… the tepees, the ghosts of our fathers, great herds of buffalo and a country that smiled because it was rich and the white man was not there. Then he whom we had followed showed us his hands and feet, and there were wounds in them which had been made by the whites when he went to them and they crucified him. He told us he was going to come again on earth…
In the Standing Rock’s Indian Agent’s mind as McLaughlin wrote, “The first thing to be done was to get rid of Kicking Bear.”
“I sent a party of 13 policemen, under the command of Crazy Walking, a man in whom I had the most complete faith with orders to arrest Kicking Bear and eject him from the reservation. So impressed was the officer in charge of the police detachment with the dance and the wonderful stories that he was turned from his purpose and returned with Sitting Bull’s promise that Kicking Bear would leave the following day.
“I immediately sent Chatka, second lieutenant of the police force to eject Kicking Bear. I knew the medicine of Kicking Bear would be wasted on him. The LT pushed his way through the dancers, notified Kicking Bear and 6 men who were with him, to leave the Standing Rock reservation, forthwith, which they proceeded to do. That night Sitting Bull broke the peace-pipe which he had kept since his surrender at Ft. Buford in 1881. … The people understood this to mean that he would stand against the whites to the death…
“After that day, there was a menace in the attitude of Sitting Bull that he could only be met by summary treatment. Sitting Bull became insolent to the Indian police, and arrogant through being left unmolested. I recommended to the Department, urgently, the necessity of removing him, with his few mischief-making supporters, from the reservation to some remote military prison.
“He kept his people madly engage in the new dance, adding absurdities to it from time to time as he observed interest and enthusiasm among them lagging. His conduct and attitude for some weeks, with further fact that his immediate followers were uncommunicative and sullen, made it plainly evident that he was secretly preparing for some rash movement.”
The Ghost Dance had Standing Rock all in a tizzy. They also believed that if the people would wear special Ghost Dance shirts, they would be bullet proof. Chief Black Elk saw this in a vision, that bullets would disappear into a powder or bounce off them completely.
Fear began to spread throughout the various Indian Agencies about the “Messiah Craze”, so they thought the best thing to do was to take away the leaders of the tribes to hopefully subdue the trend. They decided to start with Sitting Bull.
McLaughlin was fearful he would lose control, even though in his writings, he would say he was under complete control, he just needed his supervisors to get rid of the troublesome people.
In his mind… this was first and foremost, Sitting Bull.
He writes, “He (Sitting Bull) was not removed and became bolder in his work of spreading the ghost-dance propaganda”
Sitting Bull was an intimidating figure, he had been around skirmishes and war almost his entire life. Since his teen years, his Lakota tribes have been embroiled in battle after battle to save every inch of the land that was theirs. The land he grew up on. The land he wanted to raise his children on. And for that reason, he has led several war parties against the Americans. McLaughlin had every reason to be concerned.
He writes that Sitting Bull is “Crafty, avaricious, mendacious and ambitious, Sitting Bull possessed all the faults of an Indian and none of the nobler attributes which have gone far to redeem some of his people from their deeds of guilt.”
Over his years of influence, he had gathered a following of over 10,000. Warriors and their families untied under his banner. Sitting Bull gave aid to those who needed help and regularly scouted for tribes that could grow their cause.
McLaughlin adds, “He had no single quality that would serve to draw his people to him, yet he was by far the most influential man of his nation for many years. Neither Gall, Spotted Tail nor Red Cloud, all greater men in every sense, exerting the power he did. I never knew him to display a single trait that might command admiration or respect, and I knew him well in the later years of his life.”
And yet, it was Sitting Bull that spearheaded what would ultimately be the “beginning of the end”, the last war cry… Battle of Little Big Horn.
Sitting Bull’s band of followers, under the leadership of Crazy Horse, planned and executed an attack against General George Custer and the 7th Cavalry, coming away as the victors. Short-lived as it may be, Sitting Bull was the mastermind.
Following the humiliating defeat at Little Big Horn, the US had the Lakota in their sites and every effort was directed at bringing the massive tribes to heal.
Sitting Bull put it off as long as he could, but his family and followers had dwindled to less than 200. He finally surrendered for the sake of his people who were starving because there was very little game any more. On July 19, 1881, Sitting Bull Surrenders. He would say to the Commanding officerMajor David H. Brotherton, "I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifleMany saw the spread of the news and the compliance of the tribes by initiating the dance and the prayers that there would be an insurrection… an impending war between the Indian and the whites.
Daniel Royer, who arrived as the new agent on the Pine Ridge Reservation in August of 1890. Royer was convinced that the Ghost Dancers were warriors and dance was a threat to rally others to destroy the U.S. government’s treatment of the Lakota.
He believed it to be a war dance and requested troops from President Benjamin Harrison on November 15th of that same year. His telegram read: “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy. We need protection and we need it now. The leaders should be arrested and confined at some military post until the matter is quieted and this should be done now.
October 17, McLaughlin doubles down the concern with Ghost Dancers at his agency, quote, “Desiring to exhaust all reasonable means before resorting to extremes, I have sent a message to Sitting Bull, that I want to see him at the agency, and I feel quite confident that I shall succeed in the allaying the present excitement and put a stop to this absurd craze for the present at least; but I would respectfully recommend the removal from the reservation and confinement in some military prison at a distance from the Sioux country of Sitting Bull and the parties named in my letter of June 18 last.” End quote.
His letter was answered with advice to offer a stern talking to to Sitting Bull making sure he was aware that the Secretary of the Interior was quote, “greatly displeased with their conduct” and he would be held to a strict accountability for the misconduct of any of his followers.
A telegraph arrived from Washington, on Nov. 14, 1890:
The President has directed the Secretary of War to assume a military responsibility for the suppression of any threatened outbreak among the Sioux Indians and that an officer of rand be sent to investigate the situation among them. He suggests that the agents separate the well-diposed from the ill-disposed Indians and while maintaining their control and discipline, so far as possible to avoid forcing any issue that will result in an outbreak. You will exercise wise discretion in carrying out the President’s suggestion, carefully observing the caution he directs and avoiding publicity in these instructions. Signed R. V. Belt; “Acting Commissioner”
Eventually, after several conversations,Harrison relinquished military assistance. President Harrison granted the request and sent in James Forsyth in with his troops on November 20th with the orders to arrest several Sioux leaders.
McLaughlin writes, quote, “If it had developed a war it could only have been a war of self-sacrifice, resulting in extermination of the Indians involved, as it could not have gone further than outbreaks in certain sections of the country… An outbreak might have been disastrous if the Indians were permitted to mass, after defying the agency authorities, but only sparsely settled districts would be involved.
A plan was set in motion at the Standing Rock Agency as well. They had reached out to Buffalo Bill Cody who had developed a friendship with Sitting Bull during the time he participated in Cody’s Wild West Show in the 1880s. Cody agreed to come and help work through things as peaceably as possible.
McLaughlin, decided otherwise. He sent over 40 police officers lead by Lt. Henry Bullhead to arrest the Lakota leader. Instead of arresting him and putting him a wagon, Bullhead meant to make an example of the chief by forcing him to mount on a horse and be led from the home. Oddly enough, Sitting Bull did not want to be arrested and the Lakota people came to his aid.
Around 5:30 a.m. on December 15, the police officers came to Sitting Bull's house. Bullhead told Sitting Bull that he was under arrest and that James McLaughlin wished to speak with him He then instructed that he was to leave quietly and get on his horse.
Sitting Bull, since his return from his Wild West Show days was increasingly wary of McLaughlin and didn’t trust the henchmen who had come to fetch him.
When the policemen attempted to use force to remove Sitting Bull from his home, his supporters were furious.
Catch-the-Bear, one of Sitting Bull’s loyal followers, pointed his gun and shot Bullhead, who,instead of firing at the person who shot him, fired his revolver into the chest of Sitting Bull. Another police officer, Red Tomahawk, shot Sitting Bull in the head. Sitting Bull dropped to the ground, dying several hours later.
A close-quarters fight erupted, ending several police and Lakota dead.
JM’s response was quote, “At this late day I am frank to say that I feared military interference with the Indians, not that I doubted the capacity of the military, but because I was convinced that a military demonstration would precipitate a collision and bloodshed, which might be avoided.”
But that’s not what happened… as was covered in the episode Wounded Knee Massacre (S3E8) the people did not revolt… they fled. The end result being so much worse…
After his death, more than 200 members of Sitting Bull’s Hunkpapa Lakota band were terrified they would be next, fled the Standing Rock Agency. They were heading south to join Chief Spotted Elk’s band of Miniconjou at the Cheyenne River Reservation.
Chief Spotted Elk and his band left the Cheyenne River Reservation on the 23rd of December to combine with Chief Red Cloud’s tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation. This is where our story meets up with Major Samuel M. Whitside and the 7th Cavalry.
If you haven’t heard the story that follows the death of Sitting Bull, be sure to listen to the Bag of Bones Podcast, Season 3, Episode 8.
Click here to listen on Apple Podcast
Click here to listen on Spotify
Death of a Prophet
Wovoka, also known by his English name, Jack Wilson who lifted people’s spirits as well as healing their ails.In 1894 he was invited to appear at the San Francisco Midwinter Fair.
“Mason Valley Paiutes appreciated Jack Wilson’s leadership in so many facets of life. They felt lucky that so great a doctor was a Tovusi-dokado, and addressed him as Father, to denote respect, obedience to his wise leadership, and gratitude for his paternal concern. They listened to his inspiring preaching and sang the prayers he taught them, because his counsel and his personal conduct justified their faith.” - The Ghost Dance: Ethnohistory and Revitalization by Alice Beck Kehoe
He prophesied his own death and promised he would announce his arrival in heaven, not to return, by shaking the earth. September 20, 1932, Jack Wilson, the Paiute Prophet would die of nephritis- kidney disease. As promised, an earthquake in December of the same year told the people, his soul had found a home in heaven, don’t wait up, he was gone for good.
Here are some suggestions if you'd like to take your search deeper. I used these books in creating this blog and the podcast episode!
Also note: If you purchase from these links, we will receive a small commission.
Thank you in advance for your support!
S3E6: The Extended Bob Crane Story
The New York Times Magazine writes, quote “Had Bob Crane not been a sex addict, had he not been bludgeoned to death with his own tripod in an Arizona condo surrounded by an elaborate array of video equipment, had he not photographed hundreds of women naked in twosomes and threesomes and orgies and had his murder not gone unsolved…He would be remembered, if he was remembered at all, as the star of ''Hogan's Heroes,’
As the star of ''Hogan's Heroes,'' Crane enjoyed the same kind of fame as Gilligan or Greg Brady -- his character became part of America's collective pop-culture nostalgia. Embalmed by syndication, Crane would have been the wisecracking Hogan forever. But in the years since his death in 1978, when the porno pictures started surfacing in the tabloids and his secrets began to unravel, Crane became infamous."
And technically, it still might have quieted down if his family hadn't wanted to cash in on the drama surrounding his death. Personally, it was hard for me to get through the research on this one because, it was such a senseless crime- I mean, most of them are, but isn't it enough that his life was taken away at such a young age and in such a brutal way? But then his antics are drug through the mud.
I'm not condoning his actions and maybe this is his "paying the piper", but it just turned my stomach how the family pounced on his fleeting fame.
SPOILER ALERT: If you have not listened to the episode, this following may ruin the twists and turns!
I'm curious to hear what you might have taken away from the crime - as a crime. Do you believe John Carpenter was guilty? If not, who do you put as a suspect?
In these types of cases, we are prompted to "follow the money" and in this case, the only ones who would have benefited from Crane's death was Patti Crane. It was proven that there was NO WAY she could have actually, physically committed the murder as she was apparently on an island that night. Police said they actually made the drive to and from Arizona to see if it was possible. I'd be curious of who took out the life insurance policies and when. If she was a suspect, this tidbit would be important too: Apparently on father's day weekend, she took their son to visit him in Arizona. It's caught on video, because... he documents everything. (It's out on YouTube if you want to find it.) It was very touching. He was obviously affected by their visit.
IF she was planning his murder, maybe she planned this visit to divert attention? IF they were planning on a divorce, maybe this prolonged the proceedings... just enough?
When did his first family get removed from the will? Was there a will? He was such a family man, I don't believe he would alienate his children that way. The Scottsdale police department did admit that they never considered Patti Crane a serious suspect.
IF Carpenter killed him... he could have taken the tripod (possible murder weapon with him) cleaned it off, taken it on the plane and it said he went straight to work. He could have easily hidden it among the other millions of tripods that were probably all over his work. And why go to Richard Dawson's house? And stay there?
He does certainly act suspicious, but he really did everything they asked of him. If I remember correctly, he submitted to more than one lie-detector test and passed them all. The police really did have nothing. Did they check out his hotel room? His clothing?
There's no way, that big of a mess did not get on some clothing!
AND that murder was extremely passionate. There was some ANGER involved with those blows.
I usually try to find court transcripts and police records, but I just couldn't get my hands on those. I just had to wade through the sludge of gossip. I still have SO many questions!
Tune in to the Bag of Bones Podcast to hear the whole sorted story.
Books for further reading:
Who Killed Bob Crane- John Hook
Who Killed Bob Crane? is Hook’s first-hand account of a two-year investigation and search for the truth. It’s seen though the eyes of the people who were there—witnesses, detectives, prosecutors, jurors, and family members. John Hook takes readers on an incredible reporter’s journey for an inside look at the sensational physical evidence in a final attempt to learn the truth.
Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography- Carol Ford, Linda Groundwater & Dee Young
Carol Ford writes, quote “We talked with about 200 people—family members; friends as far back as grade school; and colleagues in radio, television, theatre, and film. From them, we learned that Bob was kind. He cared about people. He was generous, considerate, charitable, and compassionate. He was funny and could brighten a room just by walking into it. We have been given heaping helpings of “the dark side” with only little snippets of the good — good that included his devotion as a father to his four children from both of his marriages, his generosity to his friends and his countless hours of volunteer work for numerous charitable organizations.
Crane: Sex, Celebrity and My Father's Murder- by Robert Crane
This is the son't addition. From the description: Through disappointment, loss, and heartbreak, Crane's humor and perseverance shine. Beyond the big stars and behind-the-scenes revelations, this riveting account of death, survival, and renewal in the shadow of the Hollywood sign makes a profound statement about the desire for love and permanence in a life where those things continually slip away
From what I could see, Scott Crane never did get his book published and he also had a movie script in the works that went by the wayside. Probably for the best, I'm sure.
The Murder of Bob Crane: Who Killed the Star of Hogan's Heroes?- Robert Greysmith
This was the book that was used as a base for the controversial movie Auto Focus which starred Greg Kinnear as Crane and William DeFoe as Carpenter
Grab all 6 seasons of Hogan's Heroes on DVD to binge watch at home!
I am so excited to start up this additional blog for my website!
Yes, I still have my other one, Ginger Life and I post more personal things over there and share my experiences and thoughts about my various adventures. But THIS blog is all about American history!
It's like an extension of the Bag of Bones Podcast in where I can expound of some of the topics I've covered in an episode. I can use this platform to bring you updates on new developments and this is a great place to connect with you! I love your comments and feedback and here we can communicate.
I will also be adding smaller stories that I find that I think you'd like, but just aren't big enough to create an episode.
This will also be a great place to share with you when I get to visit a historical site, LIVE! (It might cross over with the content of Ginger Life, since I talk about travel over there, but it crossovers shouldn't happen too often.)
We are three seasons in on the Bag of Bones Podcast which means, I need to start upping my game. This blog will be just the beginning!
I'm hoping to eventually expand to a membership of sorts who want even more history in their lives. More episodes, more community and more merch! I've had so many requests for unique merchandise that if I keep putting it off, that would just come of as rude.
The website has also been approved to promote products found on Amazon so- if you see a highlighted passage, feel free to click on it to purchase. We will get a bit of a kickback every time you do. It will take a ton of clicks to cover the costs of hosting a podcast and website, but... every little bit helps and allow me to thank you in advance.
I thought it would be a great way to share with you some of the books I use in my research if you want to dive even deeper. One click, and it takes you right to it. (I know I appreciate those shortcuts when I'm searching for something!)
And I promise not to junk up the blog with annoying adds and blinking banners. I really hate that...
So, just to test it out... here's a link to the Bag of Bones Podcast Journal! Didn't know you needed one until now, did ya? This is all a learning curve for me as well, so please let me know if something isn't working right or I'm getting a little heavy handed with my linking.
In other changes, the Bag of Bones Podcast will no longer be produced by the Ragtag Network. For the time being, the past episodes and photos can still be seen over there (www.ragtagnetwork.com) but we are going to try and get things moved so they will all be conveniently located all in one space on one platform. We'll have the actual episodes, the topics page and now the blog... next the merchandise. It may take a minute, so please be patient with me!
I hope you'll join me and take advantage of these blog posts. Let me know if there's something you'd think would make a great post!
And we're off... Season 3 is going to be great!
A History Blog
This is a great way to connect over all things American history! Comment on podcast episodes, read quick pieces and extra segments that couldn't make a full episode!
Bag of Bones Podcast partners with Bones Coffee Co! The perfect match!